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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Match Of The Decade
September 21, 2005 by Dave Hanson


My name is Dave Hanson, and I am a Ring of Honor convert. I haven't ditched WWE, I still watch it every week, but recently I discovered the Philadelphia-based wrestling promotion that people have been buzzing about so much. I decided to give Ring Of Honor a try by picking up the DVD of the first show they ever did, "The Era of Honor Begins," and I was hooked right from the start. However, it wasn't till I picked up the second DVD, "Round Robin Challenge," that I witnessed the match that hooked me into Ring of Honor permanently. It may be the best match since the turn of the millennium. That match was Low-Ki vs. American Dragon.

First, a bit of explanation is in order. As mentioned, I admittedly am not up-to-date on Ring of Honor. I am trying to catch up by buying the DVDs in sequence so that I don't miss anything. Similar to buying up all the back issues of a great comic book to get caught up on the action, I am slowly catching up on this stellar wrestling promotion. As of this writing, I am up to the "Road to the Title" DVD, and have about three years worth of shows to get through, so I may not have even seen the best matches yet. But as it stands, they have already produced one of the greatest matches I have ever seen.

Previously, my choice for "Match of the Decade" would have been Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship from the 2003 Royal Rumble. To me, that match was better than anything I had seen from the year 2000 to the present. And, even though Benoit and Angle are probably my two favorite active wrestlers right now, their stellar performance was edged out by two young superstars who I had never even heard of before purchasing a Ring of Honor DVD. Those two men were Low-Ki and American Dragon.

The setup was as follows: The main event of the first Ring of Honor show was a triple-threat match between Low-Ki, American Dragon, and "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels. That match in itself was a fantastically entertaining performance, which, coming from me is saying something; I'm not the world's biggest fan of triple threat matches. Low-Ki won that match, and at that point a debate between the three wrestlers about who really was the top man in Ring of Honor emerged, so the setup for the next month's card was made: a "Round Robin Challenge" was issued, in which each of the three men would wrestle each other in singles competition the following month. The card would open with American Dragon vs. Christopher Daniels, then at the halfway point in the card would be Low-Ki vs. Christopher Daniels, and the night would be topped off with American Dragon vs. Low-Ki in the final match of the evening.

The people running the show at Ring of Honor must have anticipated that this final match would truly be something special; they were able to get former Ultimate Fighting Champion and former WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Shamrock to be the special guest referee for this match. It turned out to be quite appropriate, as both competitors have styles that are very much submission-based and amateur-wrestling-based.

Thus, the match had been set up. The stage was set for the story to be told in the ring. Neither of the wrestlers were trying to get custody of the other's kid, neither one was stalking the other's girlfriend, and it wasn't an angle inspired by internet gossip about either wrestler's personal life. It was the kind of story that should be told in the world of pro wrestling; it's simply about two men trying to prove they're the best in the world. The match began.

It was the kind of match that would never be seen on RAW or Smackdown! in a million years. It was the kind of match that would make the greatest pro wrestlers from the 70s, 80s, 90s, or any other era truly proud. It began with a long series of submission holds and reversals-holds whose names you never hear JR or Michael Cole call out, simply because they are never used in the WWE. One of the key elements to a great wrestling match is the need for the styles of the two wrestlers to compliment each other well. The two men, American Dragon and Low-Ki, have styles that were just different enough to make for a compelling contrast, yet just similar enough that the two could grapple on the mat comfortably without having to talk to each other during the match, about where to go next. That is ring psychology in a nutshell: being able to communicate with the other wrestler without physically speaking to him; being able to wrestle a great match with very little pre-match planning, and very little (if any) exchanges of words during the match itself. All the greats have it-Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat--you'll rarely catch any of them talking during their matches, especially if they're in there with someone who is at their skill level. Low-Ki and American Dragon wrestled with the level of ring psychology of all those greats; and they perfectly executed what, in theory, should be the main goal of every wrestling match: they told a story in the ring.

As the match wore on, it became more and more physical. American Dragon's submission style dominated the early going, but Low-Ki eventually took the lead and steered it towards his area of expertise, which is thundering martial arts work, more specifically high, fast, and heavy kicks. American Dragon was knocked outside the ring in a daze more than once, where (thanks to the fact that there are no countouts in Ring of Honor) referee Ken Shamrock jumped out to check on him. The crowd had seen American Dragon receive a brutal cut just above his eye in the earlier match with Christopher Daniels-a match which American Dragon had lost. Low-Ki had beaten Christopher Daniels in their match earlier in the evening. The crowd in the arena was on the edge of their seats, as was I, as I watched the match from home. A million questions flashed through all of our minds. "Will the head wound from earlier in the night prove to be Dragon's undoing" Is Shamrock going to stop the match and award the victory to Low-Ki without a submission or pinfall" That was a pretty bad fall, is American Dragon hurt for real" In real life" Is American Dragon going to start out his Ring of Honor career with a record of 0-3" Can anyone defeat this amazing Low-Ki, who has yet to be beaten"" Storytelling. This is the art of pro wrestling at its finest. This is what makes it just as viable a medium of storytelling as the stage, the silver screen, or the written word.

After all was said and done, the match had gone on for a total of about 34 minutes. Those men worked on each other and entertained us all for over a half an hour! The crowd was stunned, yet at the same time on its feet and cheering both men. When the final bell rang, it was as if everyone-even Ken Shamrock-knew they had just witnessed something special. Following the rules of Ring of Honor, both men shook hands after the match, as they also did before the match. It was truly a sight to see-this is what pro wrestling should always be about. But wait a minute-who won, you ask" Well, why give that away when you can check out the match for yourself, and hang on the edge of your seat just as I did" Those who have seen this match must know what I'm talking about. And for those who haven't, well...it's like finding out there's one more present under the Christmas tree that you never knew was there.

by Dave Hanson ..


Troy Tollison wrote:
Much like the match this article also told a great story. You did such a good job of hyping it I have no choice but to watch it again. As far as you being behind story wise, if you want to just get caught up quickly go to their sight and click on the link under "A Guide For New Fans" to read about their chapter points.
J.R. Thomas wrote:
I am a Ring of Honor fan and I own the Round Robin Challenge on dvd. The best on there is not American Dragon vs. Low Ki. The best match is Christopher Daniels vs. American Dragon. It had better psychology. Danielson had a injured neck in his second match and hit a top rope diving headbutt during the course of the match. It is a very entertaining match and when I first say it I thought it was the greatest match ever. But upon further inspection and the support of the ROH message board I know it isn't the super great match some hype it.

I'm not saying don't watch the match but there has been much better things than it, with the opening match being better than this one. Now if you want a epic match wait till you get to the Paul London-Bryan Danielson 2/3 Falls match, promptly named The Epic Encounter. That is a awesome match that still holds up against the more modern day classics of ROH.
Bill Yankowy wrote:
I love the match with Low Ki and American Dragon, it's lost in the list of best ROH matches ever in my opinion, but it's not really the match of the decade, or the best ROH match ever. The best match of the deacde, best ROH match ever and the greatest wrestling match ever is Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk from Joe vs. Punk 2. I know your catching up on the ROH shows but once you get to Joe vs. Punk 2, you'll see why it is the best match ever.
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